Jace is on, CHS has been hard to stop
Jace Keema returns to where it all began.
Keema, last year’s back-up at quarterback, came off the bench for the injured Joe Nelson last year at Bishop Manogue and threw a TD pass and ran for two other scores in an easy 44-13 Carson High win over the Miners.
Prior to that game, Keema had seen mop-up duty against Reed, McQueen and Hug. Manogue was his first significant action, and he made the most of his opportunity. He also guided Carson to a win over Galena the following week.
This year, the job has been Keema’s from the beginning, and he’s looking to steer the Senators to their second straight Sierra League victory and fifth overall when Carson visits Bishop Manogue Friday.
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
“Things are going well, but we are looking to get better every week,” Keema said prior to Tuesday’s practice.
Indeed. Under Keema’s guidance, the Senators are executing at a high level, averaging more than 320 yards rushing per game and better than 400 per game overall.
Certainly a big reason for that is Abel Carter, who has gained more than 1,100 yards on the ground and scored 16 rushing touchdowns and 19 overall.
Another big reason is Keema himself. The 6-foot senior quarterback is the team’s second-leading rusher with 299 yards and a threat to score in the red zone.
“Teams key on Abel and it opens up things for myself, Spencer (Rogers), Tyler (Huling) and Kellen (McDermott),” Keema said. “I have confidence to run the ball or throw the ball.”
Having a quarterback who can run is a nightmare for a defensive coordinator. It makes for another runner the defense has to account for.
“Abel and Jace give us a formidable 1-2 punch running the ball,” CHS head coach Blair Roman said. “Having Jace back there, we can do a read (read option) play. He’s a physical runner, and a running quarterback presents a lot of options.”
There are times when it looks like Keema seeks out contact instead of trying to avoid it. Maybe it’s the defensive mentality that lurks beneath his surface.
The bulk of Keema’s rushing yardage came in the 45-17 win over McQueen. The Lancers keyed heavily on Carter, and forgot about Keema. Big mistake. Keema rushed for 186 yards and most of it was between the tackles. The CHS senior has had other good rushing games this season, but nothing like that one.
Where Keema is working the hardest is on his passing. He got off to a slow start, throwing four interceptions in early games against Desert Mountain and Reno. In the last four weeks, however, he has turned the ball over just once.
His best game came in the 56-0 rout of North Valleys when he went 7-for-8 for 139 yards and tossed TDs to Tyler Huling and Cole Porter. More important than the yardage is making smart decisions throwing the ball, and staying away for the turnover. Since the Reed loss, he has completed 24 of 45 attempts, a 53 percent mark, and the aforementioned one interception. He lost a fumble against Reed on a blindside hit.
“For us, and I don’t like to put any added pressure on myself, if we want to get to the regional championship game again and go to state, I have to have success throwing the ball,” Keema said. “I’ve been a little inconsistent.
“Most of the time my mechanics are good, but sometimes I don’t pay attention. I’ve gotten better since week one.”
Keema has completed 48 percent of his passes thus far. He wants to get above that 50 percent mark. Roman has seen progress recently.
“I’ve been super pleased with the way Jace is throwing the ball the last three or four games,” Roman said. “He had to deal with the wind against Galena. He threw 14 balls, and 12 of them were good throws. We had a couple of drops.”
Keema played well on defense last year, but because of his value at quarterback, he hasn’t played a snap on the defensive side of the ball.
Keema’s back-up at quarterback, junior Daniel Morrison, missed all of last season with a knee injury. Roman said Morrison has shown improvement during the season.
“I miss it a little bit, but I like playing quarterback all the time,” Keema said about defense. “Coach Roman had talked about playing a few snaps on defense, but that hasn’t happened.”
Roman said the development of young linebackers Richie Romero, Connor Quilling and Dawson Lamb has enabled him to keep Keema on the sideline.